A small flower has big reward for Laidley gardeners

IN FULL BLOOM: Shirley and Alan Small have developed an award-winning garden at their home in Laidley.
IN FULL BLOOM: Shirley and Alan Small have developed an award-winning garden at their home in Laidley. Ali Kuchel

A FROZEN bottle of water planted upside down in the soil was what got Alan and Shirley Small's garden through the harsh summer conditions.

Plants were feeling the strain of the heat, and Shirley says it's a trick they've used to keep a constant trickle of cool water to the plants on a hot day.

"You'd water overnight so they could rejuvenate but in the morning they'd all be wilted,” Shirley said.

But moving on from the heat, Alan and Shirley are now preparing their garden and orchards for the upcoming autumn and winter conditions ahead of the spring festival.

"I don't plant things until the end of May or beginning of June,” Shirley said.

"Because if we start and have a warm winter, everything will bloom quickly.

"You've sort of got to have everything start flowering in the second last weekend of August.”

Alan and Shirley are no strangers to garden competitions.

Prior to moving to Laidley 11 years ago, they lived in Gladstone and of course, they had a garden.

Shirley and Alan Small have developed a beautiful garden in Laidley.
Shirley and Alan Small have developed a beautiful garden in Laidley. Ali Kuchel

They purchased their block of land where they currently live and built a home, originally for their son while he was at uni.

But travelling from Gladstone to Laidley every six or so weeks, Alan and Shirley soon found themselves creating a garden.

They started with mango trees and Shirley discovered she could grow some of her favourite plants which didn't take to the central Queensland conditions.

They currently have about half an acre which is entered in Lockyer Valley garden competition, and the rest is orchards, boasting more than 50 mango trees, stone fruits, peaches, nectarines, plums and olives.

But you'll never see a red plant in their garden.

"I just have a dislike of red, in other gardens it looks good and I appreciate that colour when I go into another garden,” Shirley said.

"But I couldn't have red plants in my garden.”

Shirley and Alan Small in their Laidley Garden.
Shirley and Alan Small in their Laidley Garden. Ali Kuchel

Alan and Shirley spend about four to five hours in the garden every day and in summer they're often out until after dark.

Alan is the chief labourer and Shirley chooses the plants and colours - most of which boast strong pastel colours or hot pinks and blues.

"When it's time for the garden competition, Shirley colour plants,” Alan said.

"She has a certain taste for what colour goes where.”

But it's the love of gardening and achieving something that inspires Alan and Shirley.

"If you get frustrated it's good to get out into the garden and dig - then it disappears,” Shirley said. Shirley said just to get out and water (the garden) was relaxing.

Topics:  gardening laidley lockyer valley

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